The more I contend with and deconstruct the reopened trauma of North American Chattel slavery, White Supremacy, and systemic racism, the more grace I have for the Black men in my life.
The murder of SO many Black men being caught on camera—visually invading my life, my psyche, and my false sense of safety—has revealed to me just how much quiet resentment I held toward Black men. Why? For simply being Black Men.
Let me explain.
I grew up unprotected. Like so many little Black girls. My father wasn’t around and my birth mother had male “friends” with unchecked access. I have known violence at the hand of Black men. I have also known breathtaking kindness at their hands as well. So Black men have never been all bad or negative to me. I come from a violent unprotected background. Violence was our normal. I watched my momma beat some Black Men who beat on her so I never held the violence that was my life as “bad.” It simply was life.
Ironically my resentment of Black men didn’t come from the violence. It came from the failed expectation that as Black Men, they would love, cherish, and protect me. And some did. My Black male friends kept me safe on the streets and in my momma’s house more so than most Black teenage girls. But my father—he loved me enough to keep my momma from aborting me, but not enough to stay. So my relationship to Black men has been ambivalent: my father loved me and left; so will you.
There is a social construct that is the very fabric of American society: Fathers protect and provide for their children. That agreement requires the father to be present in the lives of his children. And because my father loved me but left me, I don’t hate Black Men: I resent them for not being “white.”
Hold up—let me finish.
I don’t mean “white” skin or privilege. I mean white standards of masculinity. Think the dad from the television show, Father Knows Best or, even The Cosby Show. The fathers in both shows model the hetero-normative patriarchy that positions the father as protector, provider and, this is the rub, accountable.
I have NEVER had a Black Man be accountable for me in that, “father knows best” kind of way. I have never known his provision or his complete protection. So I have, in the tradition of hurt Black Women, related to Black Men as transactional.
I had in a lot of ways turned Black Men, as a collective, into a commodity, a service provider—be it in business or in the bedroom. Black men were functional. Utilitarian. Disposable.
George Floyd was cavalierly executed by the police while the world watched. The police had their hands in their pockets as if taking almost nine minutes to watch the life pour out of George’s body on camera was of no more consequence than getting one’s car washed. They treated him, as they ended this imperfect Black Man’s life as if he were disposable.
Just like I had.
I cried for weeks after George died but didn’t comprehend, beyond the obvious, why I was so traumatized. I had seen death before. So why was this different? In one stroke of red hot self-honesty, I realized what I was waking up to.
I had taken on the white supremacy ideology that Black Men don’t matter. They are only as good as they are useful. If they can’t provide some sort of service then their lives are worthless to me. This was an ugly reckoning. It gets worse. Not only was I relating to Black Men from my internalized White Supremacy, I confronted that this sort of disregard of Black Men was the EXACT same disregard Black Men have been battling against since 1619.
That’s seven generations of “dance nigger or die.” “Pick that cotton or die.” And in my case “protect and provide for me or you are (emotionally) dead to me.”
So as I take on addressing the impact White Supremacy has had on Black Masculinity, I am also dismantling my gender bias against Black men and yes, my White Supremacist ideology about what a “father” should be. Black men, including my Daddy, are human beings. They are imperfect, just like I am. And they have the same historical wounds and cultural traumas from being the descendants of North American Chattel Slavery as I, albeit different. But up until this time I was so trapped in the unfulfilled expectation of the white patriarch ideal of “father” I didn’t account for his emotional traumas from slavery.
So I apologize to every Black man who has touched my life. And Daddy, if your still alive and read this, please know I realize now that your inability to stay is a wound of slavery. I understand now how disappointed you have been with yourself because you couldn’t protect and provide for me. So you had to stay away just to survive yourself. I get it.
Please forgive me, Black Man, for dismissing you and your hurts as less valuable than mine.I love you. I apologize. And thank you for all the times you did provide and protect me. I would not be alive without you. Daddy, I love you. Thank you for giving me life and for saving my life. I am my father’s daughter.
I bare your brilliance and your wounds with equal pride.